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4. The early signs of learning and attention issues often go unnoticed.

Learning disabilities don’t suddenly appear in third grade. Researchers have noted that the achievement gap between typical readers and those with dyslexia is evident as early as first grade.9 In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a memorandum making clear that evaluations should not be delayed or denied even for preschool-age children.10 Yet many students struggle for years before they are identified with SLD.

As the graphic above shows, only 6.6% of students in special education were identified with SLD at age 6. By age 10, the percentage of students in special education who were identified with SLD had increased to 40.8%.

During these years, identification of developmental delays and speech/language impairments decreased. But even if all of those decreases were due to students being reclassified with SLD, those shifts still don’t account for some 40,000 students who were identified with SLD at age 10.

Because many students with SLD struggle with reading, waiting to identify the issue in the upper elementary grades and beyond puts students at significant risk of experiencing academic difficulties in later grades. Students with SLD are likely to enter middle and high school settings without the essential literacy skills needed to meet rigorous academic standards.